B.C. (comic)

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B.C. logo in a 2005 comic strip.
B.C. is an American newspaper comic strip created in 1958, written and drawn by Johnny Hart until his 2007 death. Hart's grandson Mason Mastroianni now draws the cartoon. Johnny's daughter Perri Hart currently letters the strip. Mason's younger brother Mick Mastroianni helps with writing the strip. It is set in prehistoric times, featuring a group of cavemen and anthropomorphic animals from a variety of geologic eras. It is among the longest-running strips done by its original creator, having appeared daily in newspapers since February 17, 1958 until, and beyond, Hart's death. Hart died on April 7, 2007 after suffering a stroke at his home in Nineveh, New York,[1] but the strip continues. Both Perri Hart and Mason Mastroianni were involved with the strip prior to Hart's death and have taken over the drawing and writing duties. (Cartoons drawn by Mastroianni are easily identified with "Mason" instead of "Hart" on the cartoons.) It is syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

Character inspiration

B.C. on the cover of an Italian anthology of his strips.
Hart was inspired to draw cavemen through the chance suggestion of one of his General Electric coworkers and took to the idea "because they are a combination of simplicity and the origin of ideas". The name for the strip was suggested by his wife, Bobby; "B.C." here refers to the calendar term "Before Christ" and is also used for the name of one of the characters.

The name of the comic is also a reference to Broome County, NY, where Hart was born. The county actually uses the B.C. characters on places such as their transit lines and some local restaurants, and the characters were also part of two of the logos for Binghamton, NY's minor league hockey teams.

Hart describes the title character as similar to himself, playing the "patsy". The other major characters—Peter, Wiley, Clumsy Carp, the Fat Broad, the Cute Chick, Curls, Thor, and Grog—were patterned after friends, a relative, and GE co-workers.[2] The animal characters include dinosaurs, ants and an ant-eater, clams, a snake, a turtle and bird duo, and an apteryx ("a wingless bird with hairy feathers", as it constantly reminds the reader, presented in the strip as being the sole surviving specimen and hence aware of its being doomed to extinction). Dry humor, prose, shameless puns and wordplays, and devices such as Wiley's Dictionary (where common words are defined humorously with a twist, see Daffynition) make for some of the mix of material in B.C. Example: "Rock - to cause something or someone to swing or sway, by hitting them with it!" - from an early 1967 strip.

Peter also sometimes communicates with an unseen correspondent on the other side of the ocean, sending a message on a slab of rock that floats across the ocean and is replied to by sarcastic writing on a similar slab of rock.

Two other characters were recently added following an attempt by B.C. to raft his way around the world: Anno Domini and Conahanty, whose speech patterns have led some readers to view them as ethnic stereotypes of Italian-Americans and Native Americans, respectively.

Clumsy Carp.


Originally, the strip's setting was very firmly set in prehistoric times, with the characters clearly living in an era untouched by modernity. Typical plotlines, for example, include B.C.'s friend Thor (inventor of the wheel and the comb) trying to discover a use for the wheel. Other characters attempt to harness fire or to discover an unexplored territory, while B.C. usually just tries to be helpful and friendly but is often the source of humor through his naivety. The strip also frequently mines humor from having the characters make explicit reference to modern-day current events, inventions, and celebrities which blurs the comic's supposed prehistoric setting and makes it rife with intentional anachronisms. One of the comic's early out-of-context jokes, from June 22, 1967, was this one:
Peter: "I used to think sun revolved around the earth."
B.C.: "What does it revolve around?"
Peter: "The United States!"
Another example: near Christmas time, the apteryx dressed as Santa Claus and modified his usual spiel: "I'm an ApterClaus, a wingless toymonger with batteries not included!"

According to a theory—put forth most notably by Washington Post columnist and comics critic Gene WeingartenB.C. is set not in the past but in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic future. This theory makes the anachronisms more easily understood as references to an ancient history the characters dimly comprehend. This was later confirmed by the comic.

Religious aspect

Following a renewal of Hart's Christian faith in 1977, the strip has increasingly incorporated religious, social, and political commentary. In interviews, Hart has referred to his strip as a "ministry" intended to mix religious themes with "secular humor".[2] Though other strips such as The Family Circus and Hart's own Wizard of Id regularly include Christian themes, B.C. strips have been pulled from comics pages on several occasions due to editorial perception of religious favoritism or overt proselytizing. Easter strips in 1996 and 2001, for example, have prompted editorial reaction from a handful of U.S. newspapers, chiefly the Los Angeles Times and written and verbal responses from Jewish and Muslim groups (interestingly, one of Hart's best friends and defenders is Jewish-American cartoonist Mel Lazarus). The American Jewish Committee termed the Easter 2001 strip, which depicted the last words of Jesus Christ and a menorah transforming into a cross, "religiously offensive" and "shameful."[3] The Los Angeles Times now relegates strips which its editorial staff deems objectionable to the religion pages, instead of the regular comics pages.[4]

Examples of religious themes in strips

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B.C. strip from August 18 2006, illustrating Hart's frequent out-of-context humor as well as subtle incorporation of religious themes.

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B.C. strip from April 15, 2001, which generated controversy among some Jewish groups.

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B.C. strip from November 10 2003 illustrating a controversial religious-themed strip. The crescent symbol on the outhouse (a long-standing stereotype about outhouses) coupled with the bold-faced word "slam" in the I-shaped frame (I-slam) have led some to interpret this strip as a criticism of Islam.[5]

Other controversy

This cartoon ran on December 7 2006, the 65th anniversary of the Japanese military's attack on Pearl Harbor. It references the phrase "a date which will live in infamy" and Toyota, a Japanese company.
The B.C. strip on December 7, 2006, attracted criticism for defining infamy as "a word seldom used after Toyota sales topped 2 million." The day was the 65th anniversary of the Japanese military's attack on Pearl Harbor, and the punchline of the strip references Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Infamy Speech" which requested from Congress a declaration of war against Japan.

The day's strip was pulled from at least one newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News. The paper's managing editor, Brett Thacker, said the comic was "more than just a feeble attempt at being topical, it's a regressive and insensitive statement about one of the worst days in American history… [Hart's comic represented] an old way of thinking. The preceding generations lived through that horrible era—I can certainly appreciate their sacrifice. The world has changed, and much to our benefit. Unfortunately, some people haven't."[6]

Other media

The strip has been collected in various paperback books over the years, and the characters were featured in the animated television specials B.C.: The First Thanksgiving (1973) and B.C.: A Special Christmas (1981). The latter production starred the comedians Bob and Ray as the voices of Peter and Wiley, respectively.

B.C. was turned into two video games for the ColecoVision home video game system and the Atari 800 and Commodore 64 home computers: B.C.'s Quest for Tires and .

Clumsy Carp was present at the 75th anniversary party of the comic strip Blondie.


Influences from B.C. are found throughout Johnny Hart's home of Broome County, New York. A PGA Tour event, The B.C. Open, took place every summer in Endicott, New York through 2005 (the final scheduled B.C. Open in 2006 was disrupted by flooding, prompting a change of venue to the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in central New York state.) The county parks department features a green dinosaur, and a caveman riding a wheel graces every B.C. Transit bus. In the past, Hart has also left his mark on the logos of the Broome Dusters and B.C. Icemen hockey teams.


B.C.'s awards include:
  • Best Humor Strip in America, National Cartoonist Society, 1967
  • The Reuben, Cartoonist of the Year, National Cartoonist Society, 1968
  • The Yellow Kid Award, International Congress of Comics, 1970
  • Adamson Award, Swedish Museum of Comic Art, 1975
  • The Seger Award, King Features, 1981
  • Best Newspaper Comic Strip, National Cartoonist Society, 1989


1. ^ Cartoonist Hart, creator of 'B.C.,' dies, Yahoo News, April 8, 2007
2. ^ At the Hart of B.C. by Monte Wolverton
3. ^ Easter Comic Strip Creates An Uproar, Christian Century, May 2, 2001
4. ^ Johnny Hart: Not Caving In, Today's Christian, March/April 1997
5. ^ Gene Weingarten. "Cartoon Raises a Stink; Some See Slur Against Islam in a 'B.C.' Outhouse Strip", Washington Post, November 21 2003, pp. C1+.2003"> 
6. ^ B.C. comic strip for Dec. 7 pulled by Bob Richter

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comic strip is a drawing or sequence of drawings that tells a story. Written and drawn by a cartoonist, such strips are published on a recurring basis (usually daily or weekly) in newspapers and on the Internet.
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Johnny Hart

Birth name John Lewis Hart
Born January 18 1931(1931--)
Endicott, New York
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